Khush Amdeed (Welcome)

Welcome to Chowraha - crossroads!

Chowraha is the crossroads of thoughts, events, opinions and feelings...all that have been shaped by individuals living in an increasingly complex world inter-connected through various means of communications.

This blog is about the crossroads in society - whether it is those of a diaspora community, global media complicating the structure of nations and cultures, or individuals finding parallels in spaces unknown to them.

The above picture is courtesy a much-admired photographer (Ali Khurshid) whose work is a source of inspiration and reaffirms the belief in the complex beauty of this world.

Friday, May 16, 2014

You may be kicked for mourning in Turkey

When Erdogan’s aide, Yerkel, kicked a mourner several times during his official visit to the site of Soma mine explosion, he made it clear that not only does he lack control over his anger, but that he also has little regard for humans. The Turkish government needs to take strong actions if it hopes to atone for this absurd show of power and rectify its image but more importantly if it wants to assure its citizens that such incidents won’t happen again!   

Yusuf Yerkel kicking a protestor - Copyright: Guardian

Yusuf Yerkel, accompanying Prime Minister Erdogan to Soma in the wake of the coalmine tragedy has admitted to kicking a protester. The mine incident has already witnessed over 280 deaths while scores remain missing. Soma, as is the rest of Turkey, is already fuming from the fatalities and the lack of safety measures for their workers. 
Turkey has seen rapid economic growth in the last eleven years under Erdogan but still suffers from some of the worst health and safety standards for its workers. Yerkel’s kicking of the mourner only added irony to Erdogan’s unsympathetic words during an earlier speech when he said that “accidents happen” and “this is the destiny of the job.”  

Although the Prime Minister’s office distanced itself from Yerkel’s actions, the reality is that it can’t run far from it. Yerkel has struck a huge blow to his government’s credibility. If Erdogan wants to regain it, he needs to demonstrate that he will not tolerate such abuse of power now or in the future. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Lessons from Islamabad #manwithgun episode

When the man with the gun, overtook Jinnah avenue in Islamabad, parked his car near the important Blue area and air fired using his Kalashnikov while
smoking and drinking energy drinks, all forms of media joined the
breaking-news bandwagon. Everyone turned into crime experts, terrorism
analysts, police advisers and law enforcement critics. Everyone was more
intelligent than those managing the situation - as is always the case in
Pakistan perhaps. Some found it tragic, whilst others found it entertaining,
yet none could turn away from the story. Lessons learnt? Many actually, and
I want to pen them down before more is learnt about these terrorisers and
I'm proven wrong.

A super bored nation
We are a super bored nation - despite all the bombings, target killings,
drone attacks, spy attacks, honour killings, etc we still find it
entertaining to cling on to a family in Islamabad.

We love drama and especially family drama. His name varied from Sikander
to Kamran and Ramzan, he is said to have a 40 year old Arab wife in Dubai,
he had killed his brother in Sialkot and escaped...we heard it all on TV and
tweeted it!

Women re-defined
Women aren't really that suppressed - here was a partner in crime, very
calm for someone who had no clue what her husband was upto until she was
caught in the situation playing the most crucial negotiating role.

Woman brought sanity - taking care of her husband's demands, the loo her
child needed to go to while on live tv, handling telephone calls, and being
the messenger between police and husband including writing down the demands on a notepad, she was really the saner of the two.

Burka isn't that oppressing - as upsetting as it may be for those human
rights advocates opposing the burka avenger for glorifying the oppressive
burka, this wife of the #manwiththegun should have made them re-think.

An educated nation?
Our media isn't true to its word when it says education is the only key.
To be honest, had they spent even 1% of this time to the Egyptian massacre,
we would have been a more educated nation. A point that calls for

Hollywood or no Hollywood? Our media forgot what it always said about the
lack of education in the country. One of the leading television channels
titled their screen in urdu and translated here "jinnah avenue a scene from
hollywood" but the news anchor kept advising people to move away from the
site of crime, warning that this was not a hollywood movie. says its not
Hollywood movie but that's what their title says I'm confused

Terrorism and consumerism:
Thanks to the breaking news nature of media running out of things to say,
we heard several times that the #manwiththegun was drinking energy drinks.
That couldn't have made a good ad for the energy drink!

At least we are better than General Al-Sisi:
Whereas in Egypt thousands of peaceful protestors can be massacred, at
least we should be proud that we still have humans in our security forces
not killing a single armed man. While young women can be killed ruthlessly
for asking democracy, here a woman aiding her terrorist husband can walk
freely between the police and her car safely.

The media dilemma:
Hamid Mir had little to say about media responsibility but blamed the
government for not knocking sanity into the heads of the media and asking
them to leave. He has a point though. Had media not sensationalised this
event, perhaps as many people as did collect in the area wouldn't have, and
then perhaps the police would have been able to do a better job. But had the
media not been there, someone like Zamarud Khan wouldn't have been disturbed enough to resolve the conflict!

Children have it the worst:
In all of this drama, we can't help but wonder what lasting negative
impact this episode will have on the children. They saw their father
smoking, holding on to weapons, (air)firing, stealing the car at gun point
and then being taken down in the most terrorising way too. What environment
were they growing up in? What will they learn when they will grow up to
google this day in Pakistan history? What will they think when they see the
videos, the analysis, the words and the tweets.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, August 16, 2013

Family politics - PTI versus JI

What happens when one brother supports PTI and the other JI. You have a highly politicised house that has learnt how to play its own politics within its boundaries.

My blog post published in The Express Tribune 

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When the storm spoke for Imran Khan's PTI

The following blog post has been republished with the permission of the author Fayez Asar and originally appeared as a Facebook note on the author's page - this post is an account of the 23rd March 2013 PTI rally in Lahore, Pakistan. 

10 Magical Minutes at the PTI Jalsa

I wanted to write about the entire Jalsa at the Minar-e-Pakistan on 23rd March 2013, but I’ll save that for another day.  Right now, I just want to write about the last 10 magical minutes of the Jalsa.  Just those last few minutes made my entire trip completely worth it.

The weather was extremely pleasant throughout the day.  It was not too hot to begin with and the occasional light drizzle helped cool everyone down even further.  The mood was extremely festive as it always is at PTI Jalsas.  As expected, the crowd became much more focused once Imran Khan stepped onto the podium.  The crowd knew that this was a special day where he was going to officially kick off PTI’s election campaign by delivering a big speech.  People knew that Imran Khan was going to summarize the principles on which the Naya Pakistan would be built.  All singing and chanting came to a halt as they listened to every word attentively and clapped on all key points with proud passion and discipline.

2013-Mar-23: PTI Jalsa

However, things changed quite dramatically as Imran Khan started making his 6 promises to the nation.  As if his simple and clear promises were not enough to signal a refreshing wind of change, God wanted to give his own signals to the incompetent and corrupt leaders of the old Pakistan.  It was as if God wanted to show them how fierce and decisive the winds of change will be for them.  The drizzle quickly turned into a massive storm with intense thunder, lightning and wind.  Our clothes were completely drenched in rain water in no time.  The wind was so strong that the rain drops were blowing completely horizontally from behind the crowd straight into the strong and broad shoulders of the lion of Pakistan standing before us.  His strength and ferocity in this situation gave energy and courage to his young and old tigers alike.  It felt like each promise shook the very foundations (or whatever is left of it) of the old Pakistan.  With each promise the storm gained strength.

We had promised our leader only moments ago that we would stand there with him no matter how severe the storm got.  We were not going to let him down so soon.  We all stood there until as long as we could see him up on stage.  I turned around and all the nearly half a million of us seemed just as resolute in spite of the dangerous lightning, rain and wind.  We all wanted to make the Jalsa a great success by standing resolute, not realizing that the Jalsa was already a success long before Imran even stepped on the podium.  We did not know that nearly 0.5 million had showed up (there was no internet access there).  We could only guess by seeing how cramped up we all were in such a big park and the fact that we could see a sea of people even outside the park.

By the time Imran Khan was done explaining his third promise, the rain and wind were so strong that we could barely hear him any longer.  The entire crowd around me was convinced that God was signaling his approval of each word being spoken by our truthful and upright leader and the wind was a wind of change and rain was washing away the old, corrupt and incompetent and leaving behind a Naya Pakistan.  The realization that God was very visibly there with us caused everyone to enter a kind of trance where even the calmest of souls were screaming and roaring.  I have never experienced such loud crowd sustained for so long.  This felt like a scene from a movie (a Brave Heart or a Gladiator), except that this was real life and I was right there in the middle of all this.  We could tell that our lion continued with his speech in spite of the storm which added to the drama.  We couldn’t hear him, but that was OK.  He had already promised that he will only speak the truth and will always fight for justice.  We trusted him to continue shaking the foundations of the old Pakistan with each word that he spoke.

Imran Khan inspired everyone in those 10 minutes to become a lion like him.  When he leads, a whole nation follows.  I hope the passion from those 10 minutes spreads like wildfire across all of Pakistan over the next 50 days helping PTI sweep the elections and results in the emergence of a Naya Pakistan soon afterwards.  I hope our flags flutter as proudly as the flags were fluttering in those 10 minutes of wind storm.  I hope the strong and proud shoulders of the young men holding those flags form the foundations of this Naya Pakistan.  I hope my children and their children experience the same kind of pride and passion I did on the 23rd of March, but I hope that pride is based on who we are then and not just based on who we want to be.  The struggle will not be easy just like it wasn’t easy facing the storm that night, but with the right leadership and our resolve we will insha-Allah achieve this dream of a Naya Pakistan.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The debate on the meaning of Pakistan

Pakistan is a state. But what kind of a state is it? Is it a nation state? Is it a country for Pakistanis? If it is then we need to understand who Pakistanis are. Are they a group of people who speak the same language? Or are they from the same race? The only commonality amongst all Pakistanis (or at least 95% of them) is Islam. This is why during the movement for independence of Pakistan the slogan on the tongue of Pakistanis was پاکستان کا مطلب کیا؟ لا الہ الا اللہ (What does Pakistan mean? There is no god but Allah). The slogan was the heart beat of every Muslim of subcontinent who supported a separate homeland. And this is why the leaders of Pakistan movement created a slogan مسلم ہو تو مسلم لیگ میں آو (Muslims should be Muslim Leaguers). These slogans were rationalized by Quaid e Azam in his speech at many occasions. 

One such occasion was his address to Civil, Naval, Military and Air Force officers of the Pakistan government at Khalaqdina hall, Karachi on 11th October, 1947.  He said: “The idea was that we should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play.” 

Just 19 days later (30th October, 1947) in a speech at a rally at the University stadium Lahore; the Quaid categorically said that “We have been the victims of a deeply-laid and well-planned conspiracy executed with utter disregard of the elementary principles of honesty, chivalry and honor. We thank Providence for giving us the courage and faith to fight these forces of evil. If we take our inspiration and guidance from the Holy Quran, the final victory, I once again say, will be ours.

Thus, Pakistan was founded on solid ideological foundation. This ideology was further communicated to the nation by the founding fathers in the form of Objective resolution. The forces of evil are till today conspiring against Pakistan. Our ignorance from our ideology and history is further complicating the situation. 

Many people not aware of Quaid’s vision for Pakistan assume that Pakistan was created to protect the cultural heritage of the Muslims. If that was the case then Quaid e Azam would not have appointed Leopold Weis as the member of “Islamic Education Board” and later as permanent representative of Pakistan to UN in New York. This Leopold Weis (Muhammad Asad) in May 1947 in his column in a magazine “Arafat” said: “It is impossible to create nationalism amongst the Muslims of India on the basis of race because Muslim nation over here is based on diversified racial background. But I am afraid that Pakistan’s ideological basis can be derailed because of another reason. That fear is because of overemphasis on “cultural heritage”. Instead of talking about “common ideological basis”; emphasis is being given on specific cultural, social norms and tradition and common economic benefits. There is no doubt that cultural norms and traditions and economic interests will play an important part in future shaping of the nation. But what needs to be remembered is that these important characteristics cannot be separated from our ideological vision”. 

So it is the strengthening of this ideological vision that will strengthen Pakistan. An ideology whose source of “inspiration and guidance is the Holy Quran”. It is this Holy book that directs us to find the best principles in the character of the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him)
لقد کان لکم فی رسول اللہ اسوہ حسنہ
And his example motivates us to create a state on the lines of the Islamic State of Madinah. A state where the cornerstone of the society was love and brotherhood amongst humans. A society that ensured that no rich sleeps while a poor goes hungry. A government that was not only worried about the death of humans due to hunger on its border but also of animals. A country that respects the “family” as an important unit. A state that facilitates humans to recognize God’s love and pursue happiness in his love.

Enemies of such a state – commonly accuse that a state founded on the basis of Islam will be cruel to minorities. But they forget (and so do many Muslims) that an Islamic state does not protect minorities due to its secular duties but also because of its divine ordainment. Prophet’s instruction warns Muslims that he himself will be witness against those Muslims who will oppress minorities. The constitution of Madinah sets an example where the articles regarding Jews read something like:
  • Jews (of the state) will be treated equal and helped. They will not be oppressed and no one will be helped against them.
  • The Jews of Bani Auf along with Muslims will be one political unit. To Jews their religion and to Muslims their religion.  
This is why throughout Muslim history; people of other religions found safe haven in Muslim lands. Spain under Ummayyads and Turkey under Ottomans were the best examples. And this is what the Quaid had in mind when he said:
“You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other place of worship in this State of Pakistan.” (Presidential address to the constituent assembly of Pakistan at Karachi on 11th August, 1947)

Only three days later during the transfer of power ceremony; Mountbatten suggested tolerance like in the era of Emperor Akbar. At this the Quaid said:
“The tolerance and goodwill that the Emperor Akbar showed to all the non-Muslims is not of recent origin. It dates back thirteen centuries ago when our prophet (PBUH) not only by words but by deeds treated the Jews and Christians, after he had conquered them, with the utmost tolerance and regard for their faith and beliefs.”

19th January, 2013

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Cairo - the best trip I could have hoped for

I had always wanted to visit Cairo, since my days in college. It was partly from all the anticipation about it and the love my brother had created in my heart for Egypt. He is a huge Egyptian-fan and since he is 11 years older than me, I find myself almost always in awe of any story or experience he has to share.

Our recent trip to Egypt and Cairo was every thing I had heard about Egypt. The hospitality and warmth shown to us there by our friend and his friends was more than we could have imagined. I dont think I can imagine Cairo in any other way. Everyone at work and even in my family was worried about the conditions in the country, the protests and our safety. Our hotel was only 5 minutes from Tahrir square but we witnessed a buzzing, peaceful city enjoying its every day life and busy in it.

We went right before the elections. As with any new democracy there was a sense of fear and bitterness amongst people there, unsure if the people standing in elections represented the true spirit of the revolution they had stood for. But I was excited to have visited the country post-revolution any way. I saw extremely peaceful rallies in Alexandria for Muslim Brotherhood, which I could have never witnessed before in Egypt. The cities were plastered with campaigning posters of the various contenders. This was a spirit that is meant to be appreciated and I do sincerely hope that the years to come show more fruits of democracy than bittnerness for it.

I have put together a blog post in one of my travel blogs on how to spend a quality week in Cairo. I am sure this itenerary will help you if you are planning on visiting Cairo and if not, you will enjoy seeing what Cairo and its people have to offer!

Read: Travel plan for seven days in Cairo


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Why the urge to burn a Holy Book?

Note: The following blog post has been contributed by Zarena Jabbar, a dear friend on a recent event in Afghanistan and her thoughts on its reactions worldwide.

It has been a few years now that we hear talks of the Muslim holy book, Quar’an, being put on “trial” and then burned. Lately an unsettling feeling has overcome me after hearing about the Qur’an burned in Afghanistan on February 20th by U.S. soldiers. My belief in extreme human ignorance has been confirmed by the level of insensitivity that is on the rise in our society and around the globe. I am baffled by how easy it is for a human being to disrespect a holy scripture that is believed by billions around the world to be the divine words of God and a book that teaches only generosity, kindness, modesty and submission to One God. Have the non-believers ever picked up a copy and read a verse for themselves, or better yet, have they heard the book be recited which has left billions of people around the world humbled and moved to tears. Could the reason of attempting to destroy or burn the Qur’an just be that--Ego, Ignorance, hate or is it something deeper?

In 2010 Reverend Terry Jones, pastor in Florida, announced that he was on a mission to burn the Qur’an on September 11, 2010. There were many pleas from government officials which enticed him to back down from the radical “stunt.” We thought that story ended but were unfortunately wrong. Mr. Jones came back in January 2011 and “put the Koran on trial” and continued with his rant of showing the world what a “dangerous book” this was and on March 20, 2011 in Gainsville, Florida Mr. Jones did the unthinkable and burned the holy book in front of 50 people inside his church. What was gained from this cruel act, some say it was fame or fortune but I think it was mere unrest in the world. Our job has become harder in light of these events in continuing to preach the core principles of co-existence, peace and tolerance. Teaching hate in the name of religion is unacceptable and every peace loving human being must stand up against people like Mr. Jones and his followers who think it is quite okay for youngsters to wear T-Shirts to public schools that read “Islam is of the Devil.”

All this has been on my mind along with the talks of soldiers flushing the Qur’an in toilets in Quantanamo Bay etc. when most recently on February 20th 2012 in Bagram Air Field-Afghanistan several soldiers out of “ignorance” decided to dispose of the Qur’an in a burning garbage pit even after being warned by fellow afghan soldier. This ill-mannered act has sparked violent protests in Afghanistan and unrest around the globe. With these tragic events unfolding in my life time, I question how much is known about this book and what it means. Do these lunatics not realize that the stories of all the prophets including Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him), Abraham (PBUH), Moses (PBUH) and our beloved Mary are all revealed in this book by the supreme being. This makes me wonder about the motives – is it true ignorance or is it coupled with the fear of knowing more than our comfort zones, digging deeper and learning about a religion that billions have accepted as a way of life which has given them a purpose for life so that they do not wander in this world unhappily any longer.

The Qur’an is a final revelation as believed by Muslims and is the literal words of God, revealed over many years (approximately 23 years) by Angel Gabriel himself to the final prophet Muhammad (May the mercy and blessing be upon him). The Qur’an is full of wisdom and full of Gods unparallel mercy and justice on his humankind. This book is core to Islam, one can not call themselves Muslim if they don’t believe in it. Qur’an is considered very unique in its content and style to the point that it can not be translated; therefore, any translation is considered an interpretation of the meaning of Qur’an. As Jesus (pbuh) was given the miracle of giving the blind site and Moses (pbuh) given the miracle of parting the red sea as such Muhammad’s (pbuh) miracle was the Qur’an. It is a miracle that has sublime tone and beauty. It is possible to see Muslims moved to tears when they hear or read the Qur’an. Over 1400 years the Qur’an has not been tampered with, hence, Muslims read the exact words that were revealed by God himself; a Muslim on one end of the world will read the exact words in the holy book that another Muslim will read on the other end. For these reasons, the Qur’an is a highly respected and revered book which is why there are outcries in the world when Muslims hear talks of the Qur’an being burned or unfortunately see the thrown into fire pits. This book is not a symbol like a man made flag but rather a divine revelation – words of God himself.

September 11, 2001 was very tragic, many innocent lives were lost including Muslims and many more innocent lives were impacted by its after effects; either through wars, direct discrimination, racism or profiling. When I first heard of September 11th, it was around 8:00AM and I was walking to my Accounting class in Mills College with a friend. It was a beautiful crisp morning and Mills is full of some amazing and very tall eucalyptus trees which give off this sweet dewy and nutty smell early in the morning. My friend started to tell me about what had happened in New York and seemed so worried; I am very visual so I had to see on screen for myself but nonetheless that walk to class was interesting. Since I hadn’t yet witnessed the plains crashing into the twin towers I couldn’t grasp what had happened on the east coast. However, during that walk to class, as Economic students, we started analyzing the incident in economic terms and its ramifications on the country and the world’s economic stability. I recall my friend exclaim “imagine what will happen if everyone looses all their money in the bank” we might go through a depression again! Now that sounded scary to me. Later as I saw and learned more, it was all so devastating. My heart went out to those that were impacted and at the same time fear over came me not of what will happen to the stability of the economy but the stability of peace around the world. I found myself pray that “please don’t let it be Muslims.” I found myself glued to the radio (I didn’t have a TV in my dorm room) as days went by there were talks of Afghanistan and Bush going to war and life as a Muslim as I knew was no more. Being the only Afghan on campus at the time, I started to become fearful for my safety. I became fearful for my parents who lived in a predominately right winged, white neighborhood at the time. I became fearful for my family members who still resided in Afghanistan.

My fears were slowly surfacing, one day I remember my little brother, who was in 4th grade at the time, run home with a pant and shouting in the living room, “Guess what our neighbor’s bumper sticker says?” I thought it would be something fun and unique and asked what! To my dismay, he said that the bumper sticker read “Kill ‘em all and let Allah sort ‘em out” I was shaken and decided to go outside to read for myself. The impact of those words was so strong. I stood there reading and re-reading that sticker with a wave of electric vibes running through my veins. Since then those letters imprinted
to my memory. At that moment I developed a sense of panic, not only for my family who had to deal with these neighbors but the realization that life as we knew it was not going to be the same for Muslims in this society or the world. That fearful state has never really left me and those words from the bumper sticker continue to echo each time I hear of hate crimes towards Muslims or those perceived to be Muslims, hateful words towards Islam and violent acts towards the peaceful religion.

I have asked myself over and over again how I can overcome my deep fears and have realized that if I can only reach out to each Muslim and Non-Muslim and explain to them to judge Islam by learning about it through the Qur’an and not judge it by the acts of a few shallow minds. Burning a holy book will not accomplish much but understanding it will help one become a more tolerant human being which may be preached by the very religion they follow. There are many people out in the world who will do unacceptable acts in the name of religion, be it Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Sikh and etc. but best are those who step out of their comfort zones and challenge themselves to learn about their neighbor through text, history, poetry and build respect.

“Say, ‘If all mankind and the jinn would come together to produce the like of this Quran, they could not produce its like even though they exerted all and their strength in aiding one another.” (Quran 17:88)

“Or do they say that he has invented it? Say (to them), ‘Bring ten invented chapters like it, and call (for help) on whomever you can besides God, if you are truthful.” (Quran 11:13)

“And if you all are in doubt about what I have revealed to My servant, bring a single chapter like it, and call your witnesses besides God if you are truthful.” (Quran 2:23)